March 7, 2014 — satisfaction

How one thinks of Christ’s work (the atonement) makes a big difference in how she relates to God and others, and how he decides what he must do or be. So let’s do some theology and slow down long enough to meet God in our meditation as we begin Lent!

Today’s Bible reading

Read John 8:48-50

The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge.

More thoughts for meditation

Third image of the atonement: Jesus the satisfaction

This explanation focuses on God and his honor. It was the original and inspirational work of  Anselm of Canterbury ( 1033-1109) in his treatise, Cur Deus Homo (Why a God-man?). This explanation is grounded in budding scholastic logic and the concept of personal honor found in the European feudal culture.

Anselm is refuting the ransom explanation, for the most part. He finds no reason in justice why God was under any obligation to Satan. He says that Christ’s atonement concerns God and not the devil. Humanity has violated the honor of God and defiled His creation with sin. It is not consistent with God’s self-respect that He should permit His purpose to be thwarted. He must maintain his honor or his character is in question. In Anselm’s culture, this would be akin to a serf who may have insulted and dishonored his lord.  In such cases the lord would have demanded satisfaction, or payment for the dishonoring of his position and status. Since God was so dishonored by man’s sin, it was likewise necessary for God to be satisfied — by payment, for such an egregious action. For this transgression, repentance is no remedy, since penitence, however sincere, cannot atone for the guilt of past sin. Nor can any finite substitute, whether man or angel make reparation. Since sin is against the infinite God, it is infinitely guilty, and can be atoned for only by an infinite satisfaction.

Thus either humanity must be punished and God’s purpose fail or else humanity must make an infinite satisfaction, which is impossible. There is only one way of escape, and that is that someone should be found who can unite in his own person the attributes both of humanity and of infinity. This is brought about by the incarnation of Christ. In Christ we have one who is human, and can therefore make satisfaction to God on behalf of humanity, but who is at the same time very God, and whose person therefore gives infinite worth to the satisfaction which He makes. Christ provided satisfaction to God vicariously by merit of his sinless life and death, which applied a restoration of God’s honor to man’s account.  Jesus then became the reparation which was required for sin.  Through receiving Christ, the satisfaction for a person’s sin is paid.

Later theroists take this logical approach further and object that it is not God’s honor that is violated, it is his justice.

Here are some further examples of this “angle” in the New Testament:

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and  without  the  shedding  of blood there is no forgiveness.  It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Hebrews 9: 22-28 ).

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).

 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Hebrews 10:10).

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. (Romans 3:25).

Suggestions for action

Lent is the season of going slow, taking time, reflecting.

Take one line of the scripture above that seems to be talking to you and think about it for five minutes. Then write down what God seems to be saying to you, or write down what your convictions seem to be saying about you for another five. Sit with it all. How has Jesus brought you into right standing with your Lord?

Pray: I honor you as my Lord. Thank you for the gracious way you use your power to release me from the consequences of my sin.

One response

  1. One other theory I have heard (and it may be coming tomorrow!). If we see God and Jesus as connected as part of the trinity than God was co-suffering with Jesus on the cross. Not demanding justice but providing a loving response to our sin condition where God suffered instead of us.

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